Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'd like to thank...

... my mother's nursing home for continuing to provide me with such good material.

Yesterday morning, Matt and I talked again. We decided not to decide anything until Monday, because we need time to think. I made a list of the pros and cons of bringing Mom home versus finding another nursing home. Then, when I was just sick to death of worrying about it, my dad said, "How'd you like to go get a buffalo sandwich?"

"I'd love to. Let me take a quick shower."

At first, I thought he meant buffalo as in buffalo wings. No, he meant buffalo as in herd, not New York. With him directing me, I drove up Provo Canyon to Heber City, Utah, where my maternal grandparents are buried. There is a really, really, really great place to eat there called Spin Cafe. (Private to Grand Marais people: Think The Wild Onion).

My dad got a buffalo burger, but I got a grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork, tomato, and avacado. It was fantastic. Then, we both got a small serving of gelato and sat and ate it with tiny spoons. It was such a beautiful, balmy day and the cafe was really nice. I will remember that day. My dad was in a good mood, and I caught him on film [Fine, I caught him on whatever you catch people on now with digital photography], goofing around with his new sunglass-clip attachments.

Next, he had a couple of checks to deposit, so we went to the bank. The ladies who work at the bank adore my father. He is always gracious and friendly and they came around and asked him for hugs. The one I know the best told me he looked better than he has in months. This is true.

Then, we went to CostCo, but by that point, we had probably stretched him to his limit. We walked to the back to get gatorade and then he had to go sit down and wait while I zipped around.

So, I'm in CostCo, a Friday afternoon, and it's jam-packed. But I know my way around now, and I know what I want: stuffed salmon; beef tips I can marinate in wine to tenderize, huge bowl of fruit with mango, grapes, strawberries, cantaloupe, and pineapple. Tomato-Basil and Chicken Tortilla soups.

While I'm cruising around grabbing things, I call my mom. I've tried her before during the day, but she has not been in her room. I was curious to know how they are treating her after Thursday. She told me she had not received her pain pill the previous evening. Get this: Because her doctor has ordered them to be given "as needed," my mother has to remember to wake up and ask for a pain pill in the middle of the night. And if she doesn't do it at the right time, they won't give it to her.

In the past, I haven't thought I could really do much about things like this. But after Thursday, I decided to take my Bitch out for a test drive.

So, next, I called the nurse's office at Sunrise. I didn't know whether or not my name was mud yet, so I lied and said I was the nurse from her doctor's office. But when I got through to the nurse, this thin, fish-faced woman who always pulls her brown hair back into such a tight bun that I think she is doing it as wrinkle prevention, I identified myself. I said, "My mother just told me that last night she did not receive her pain medication."

"That's right. They are given as needed and she did not request it."

"The woman complains about pain all the time. What makes you think it was not needed? Are you serious that you are going to make an elderly dementia patient REMEMBER to wake up and ask for her pill? If she doesn't get it, then it sets her back the entire next day with regard to her pain. I DON'T EVER EVER EVER WANT TO HEAR THAT SHE DID NOT GET A PAIN KILLER AT NIGHT AGAIN, ESPECIALLY WHEN SHE DOES REQUEST IT. Do you understand me? Because if I do, I am going to come in there and YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE HAPPY TO SEE ME. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? WHAT IS GOING ON UP THERE?"

"Are you ready to speak civilly to me now?"

"Nope." And I hung up.

Next, I called the doctor's office and talked to a medical assistant several times. My mom's doctor won't order her to have a pill every eight hours because she doesn't want her to be over-medicated. Huh? I get that if my mother doesn't wake up that the doctor could argue that she didn't have need. Except when she did wake up and ask for it, they refused to give it to her. And again, if she doesn't have the pills every eight hours, then the pain gets ahead of her. Every eight hours. That is what I'm asking for.

I got the doctor to say that she had to have her last dose at bedtime. But my mother still has to ask for every pill she gets. Jesus Christ, no wonder all she talks about is her fucking pain meds. If she were to forget to ask for that, she knows what would happen.

The medical assistant told me that their entire office thinks Sunrise at Sandy is insane because when the doctor ordered an over-the-counter analgesic cream for my mom and said, "Use as directed," Sunrise told them they couldn't accept that general of a physician's order.

The whole time I'm navigating these phone calls, I'm also getting checked out at CostCo and getting my dad and our groceries into the car. We got into the car and my dad said, "I'm out of Oxygen." Fortunately, we were very close to home and we had another tank in the back seat. But I was still nervous. Then, when we got home, he slept in front of baseball for a long time. This morning he told me he thought maybe yesterday was his last trip to CostCo, but I pointed out that if that were our only outing, he could probably do it. He's concerned about his recent fatigue. Or, he was before I took a power nap that lasted three or four hours this afternoon.

This morning, I toured another nursing home that is about 20 minutes from their Provo house, with my uncle Burke. After I got hopelessly lost for about 45 minutes trying to find it, that is. But getting home was fast and easy.

I asked a lot of questions about how medications were dispensed, whether my mother could have her OTC eye drops (she can't at Sunrise, though Burke and I were laughing that we both spend $50/week on eye drops for her that keep getting confiscated). The girl who was giving us our tour this morning looked at me funny on a couple of the questions, which is the reaction I was looking for. More evidence that the way things are done in Sandy are insane. I told Burke this morning when we were standing by our cars after the tour, "It's like the people at Sunrise have never met an old elderly person before.

Also, the fee schedule is different at The Charleston: They don't base your medication fee on how many medications. They have other patients with sleep apnea machines. Their studio apartments are bigger than Sunrise and the pricing is better. They have a fully-stocked library and two floors, no lock-down unit, and refrigerators, microwaves, and small kitchen areas in every apartment. Nobody has to share a room.

It's still expensive, but we would save money there, and possibly be able to stretch things farther. But we are all getting nervous about how long we can support two households. IF they are good and decent and don't pull the crap that Sunrise has pulled, then I think they would probably be great. But Matt and I are both as gun-shy about the whole situation as a divorcee in Vegas. I really liked Sunrise. I should have known something was hinky when they refused to put her pain patches on her at first and we were running up there all the time.

I asked what would happen if my mother fell, if she had a cold and needed a doctor, if she had a cold and needed cold medicine, ran out of toothpaste, etc. The answers were all how the nursing home would take care of her-- the girl who was giving us the tour has only been in marketing about a week. She started working there in the kitchen. She has been there for four years, and she seemed pretty happy. She said she lives a minute away, so she could come and make a dr appointment and take my mom if she needed it. She wasn't a smooth salescheck like Becky at Sunrise. She didn't do a hard sell at all. She just showed us around and gave us information about activities and events and asked if we had questions. We looked at their one-and-two bedroom apartments as well. We talked also (shhh) about whether my dad could live there also... right now, they don't have availability, but...

Burke is concerned about how long I can do this without cracking up. He put his arm around me and said, "I know you think you can do it, but I worry about you."

I wonder if he is also worried about how well my mom and I would get along if we brought her home. He said, "Do you remember what you were like when we were moving her into Sunrise?"

Yep. Yep, I do. And if I didn't, I could read all about it to remind myself.

I stopped and looked at another Assisted Living place on the way home. I pass by it all the time. It's maybe 5 minutes away. I mean, I could jog there (it would be a pretty good run though). I'm not going to lie: The word "dump" crossed my mind. There were two "houses" that looked pretty residential. They were clean and orderly, and the people seemed only to be watching television intently-- they didn't look any worse or better than any of the other people I've seen in facilities lately. There were two women on staff, one in each building, and I saw a few women in a back room who were wearing scrubs and looked to be having a meeting. I asked a few questions. The bedrooms are small, and there are communal showers in the center of the buildings. That may not go over so well. The rates were great, but well... I didn't see any cockroaches, which was Matt's minimum criteria (I jest). The best thing would be that I could go over there and get her a lot, and take her to the daycare down the road here sometimes (the price is that good).

But all day, I've been thinking about both places, and I keep leaning toward The Charleston. Okay, I'm a sucker for elegant surroundings. But I didn't even realize how much guilt I've been harboring for putting my mother in a facility to begin with. I feel badly for her every minute she is at Sunrise.

This evening, she called and I spoke with her. She keeps telling me that she just wants to come home and lie on the couch and be here, and usually I just let it go by without comment. This time I said, "If I were even to consider entertaining that idea, then would you be opposed to sleeping in the basement so Matt and I can attend to Dad?"

"No, I like the bed down there."

"Also, I would want you to go to daily activities down the street so you can have social contact."

"Well, it would depend on how much pain I was in."

Oh, no, actually, it wouldn't. If we were to move her back in here, there would be some pretty inflexible rules, particularly governing how often she can see a doctor. Does it seem cruel to tell her she can't go to the dentist every single month? I don't think so. She says now she has a toothache. Well, she *just* saw a dentist. She wants to go back to her dentist. And this is how she starts winding me up. So, that puts me in the position of tending to ignore all of her health complaints because in addition to everything else, she is a staggering hypochondriac.

The Charleston has a physical therapist on site. They have an exercise room, go to Walmart on Mondays, but they can pick things up for her and add them to her tab (they refused to do this at Sunrise and looked confused when I requested it; additonally, my mother's excursions have abruptly ended with her transition to the bottom floor of Sunrise), and a podiatrist comes monthly to cut toenails. I asked how much extra it would cost to help her trim her fingernails, and that was another question I got a weird look about (yes, it costs extra at Sunrise).

I got home around noon and told my dad about both places I had looked at. Then, I am not sure what I did-- probably checked email and Facebook. I was so exhausted that that's when I went and took my power nap. I woke up thinking that I'd been asleep all night. It was 4:50, so I told my dad I had to run to the grocery store for a few things-- we don't need things like milk, butter, eggs in CostCo bulk. When I got back, he asked me if I had also gone to the liquor store because I'd been gone so long (I was gone for 25 minutes). I said no, and I hadn't. My dad's teasing about my alcohol consumption grates on me. I don't like to give him ammunition. I said, "Should I have?"

This is the General Conference weekend for the LDS Church, a world-wide conference broadcast from Temple Square in Utah. My friend Barbara works doing survey calls for Nationwide, and she texted me that she had just called a lady in Utah. "I heard organ music in the background. And lots of cats. Is that normal?"

I explained that the lady was probably just watching conference on her television. Yes. Everyone does that. Everywhere I went today, people were watching it, or cars were spilling out of church parking lots because you can also go sit on the pews at church and watch it on television. Less alcohol and popcorn there, though. Or you can try to cram into the Tabernacle or sit on the lawn outside it at Temple Square, as some college friends and I did some 24-odd years ago. In our Sunday best.

So, in order to celebrate General Conference, we went on a Daddy/Daughter date to the State Liquor Store, which closes at 7pm. On a Saturday night. We got there at 6:35pm. Phew!

Next, we came home and I had my dad call his Visa company because they started turning down my card on Wednesday, and I finally figured out that it's probably because the company probably thinks the cards are stolen. He told them to authorize Matt and I using the cards.

Now, we are watching the UConn/Kentucky game and I'm finishing this up. Then, all I want to do is watch television (watching the first season of Leverage these evenings) and try to shut off my brain.


  1. So, did you catch any of General Conference?
    Yep, we had it on at our house. :)

  2. No-- did you Tivo it?

    Actually, I hear it's on again all day tomorrow!